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1. Myopic Books (I HAVE to go here any time I'm in Wicker Park, no questions asked. I never fail to leave here without at least three books in my arms!)
2. Seminary Co-Op (it's pricey, and having bought those shares only gives me a marginal 10% relief in my funds, but hey, it's a quarterly pilgrimage!)
3. Powell's 57th Street (I can spend HOURS poring over their American History section!)
4. 57th Street Books (I once stood in line for 2 hours to get Barack Obama to sign a copy of The Audacity of Hope, and it's one of my most cherished possessions! They also have a great selection of Dover Thrift Editions. $1-$2 each for a classic? I'll take it!)
So what bookstores are in YOUR neck of the woods that other Chicagoans should know about? I'd love to support some cool independent ones, used or new!
For used books, I go to Powell's (57th St.) and O'Gara & Wilson's, just down the block.
I also enjoy going over to Bookworks on Clark St. in Wrigleyville now and again, partly because of the friendly owners but also because they get some very nice first editions.
For new books, Unabridged and the Book Cellar (in Lincoln Square) are my recommendations. The staff in both stores clearly enjoy working there and Unabridged in particular has a phenomenal sale book selection.
The Newberry Library is definitely a pilgrimage I have yet to make. Shame on me...!
I checked out Unabridged's website, and it definitely looks like my kind of place to hang out. I hope I can pry away a few hours this summer to head up there and check it out (and spend all my money)!
The Newberry Library is definitely a pilgrimage I have yet to make. Shame on me...!
Don't miss their Book Fair, July 22 - 26! (Everything is half-price on Sunday.)
I have a very fond memory of meeting Del Close while shopping for science fiction books in Lakeview. We strolled down Clark Street chatting about the Necronomicon. That was back in the day when there were more than a dozen used bookshops in the mile or so of Clark Street heading north from Fullerton.
Bookcellar is good and of course Myopic but I am not in the neighborhood much either.
I have a few downtown recommendations as I like to slip out from work and be amongst the books. There is a downtown Powell's which is nice and has a cavernous basement.
Selected Works (used books) which is fun to go to because it is in the old Fine Arts building and an elevator operator has to take you to the second floor and there is a new store kitten, Hodge (the old store cat passed away).
Shockingly I only found Sandmeyer's this year which is on Dearborn close to some other Printer's Row book shops. They have a great children's selection and a nicely chosen set of new books and the people that work there are friendly.
In Evanston, I always liked Bookman's Alley because it felt like finding some secret little bookstore since the entrance is on the alley but it does have more antiquarian selections.
I guess it is sort of what you want; I personally like antiquarian and collectible books. Not that they need to make up the whole of the bookstore, but there should at least be one section. The "rarest" books I found there were a couple of Heritage Press books that were also terribly overpriced. So I guess I post this as a warning to other book collectors that like rarer or fine books: Myopic is not the place for you. If you are that hipster type and are into criticism and women's studies, this is the place for you.
It's on Madison Street, which is a destination in itself, with lots of interesting boutiques, antique stores, and yummy restaurants. Take the Blue line or the Green Line out to Harlem, and then walk a bit to Madison. Great way to spend a Saturday or Sunday!
I'm an author and crazy-reader, so I know her because of that, but I actually first met her last year. In addition to writing, my wife and I run an interior design business and Rosemary hired us to redesign her store! :)
I was really unimpressed. The only decent used bookstore with a decent antiquarian selection is Printer's Row Fine and Rare Books, and he is just grossly overpriced to the point where I could go online with any of his books and literally buy another copy for half his price online. The two hyde park bookstores are also pretty good, but this definitely makes Chicago a pretty poor town for used books.
Since you are an antiquarian book collector, you probably know that "used book store" is not synonymous with "antiquarian bookstore," the latter being a decidedly distinct subset of the former. So it's not surprising that the list at huffpo didn't cater to your desires.
I do share your estimation of Printer's Row Fine & Rare. The Chicago Rare Book Center is actually on the south side of Evanston, not Chicago, but that's only about a mile from the city's northern edge, and they have good antiquarian selections. Other than that, I couldn't really tell you, since I am not much in the market for aged tomes. (With the occasional exception of those in my specialty fields.)
Personally, I am a big theology collector, and it seems like Powells is the only one with a decent collection in this area. I would expect some Tillich and other UofC guys in Chicago, but it seems like there really isn't a good collection of that stuff around here.
I went on occasion while living in Evanston, but that was 10+ years ago and I was not interested in antiquarian books at that time. I've been meaning to go back, now that I might find things of interest. I'd be interested to get your take.
Were you around when Ex Libris Theological Books was over on 55th Street? I loved browsing there.
Chicago Rare Book Center has a downstairs that's easy to miss, but most of the good stuff is on the main floor.
Amaranth is small but neat and well organized, and the prices are reasonable. I've picked up a few used Folio Society, Heritage Press, and Limited Editions Club books there.
Bookman's Alley is as much fun for the decor throughout its meandering rooms as the many books. Also many Folios and Heritage books throughout, plus a few shelves of mostly LEC editions in the back. Not cheap, though.
That article seems long out of date and not well researched. I visited Myopic Books once and don't plan to go back--mostly used paperbacks and hardcovers, not terribly well cared for. Bookman's Corner is a deathtrap: I fully expect the owner's desiccated remains to be discovered one day under a pile of books and the rubble of collapsed shelves.
Agree on your take of Bookman's Corner. Like a scavenger hunt, you may or may not find anything, if that's not fun, not recommended.
Ravenswood Books is a bit like that, too. But it's in my neighbourhood, and I like the fact it's there rather than another currency exchange or licquor store or whatnot. And two windows down, the proprietor posts political rants against Mayor Daley and pretty much all else, makes for entertaining reading.
Thanks for the Wheaton recommendation as well. Unfortunately he isn't open on the weekends, but I will certainly check it out as my inlaws are from Winfield
1. Chicago Rare Books Center - I started off here. It is a nice, cozy, comfy place with a lot of interesting rare books. For instance, they have the 4 volume Ricardi Press set of Morte D'Arthur and some other very rare volumes. They also have the 3 volume leather set of Kipling's Poems signed by the author, what I think was a first edition of Huckleberry Finn, and a bunch of other miscellaneous stuff, much of which is interesting. They also have a niche for children's books, which the female owner is very proud of and is sort of her speciality. I met the owner, who was older, thin, and very friendly. She loved to talk and we got caught up in a long conversation. She is a little on the neurotic side, but aren't we all? There was another gentleman in a brown, tattered sportcoat who was also very friendly and enthusiastic in a reserved sort of way. I believe he is the manager of the bookstore, but perhaps is a co-owner as well. The selection here is very nice, but the prices are pretty expensive. Interestingly enough, however, I felt like the prices on their higher-end books were much more in line with "market value" than those on the lower end. I almost bought a paperback of Keats' poems with some nice annotation, but broke out my blackberry and found that it was pretty expensive relative to the online market so I sheathed my wallet, although my wife made out with a few more contemporary hardcovers. They also have a decent selection of Limited Editions Club books, but he is quite high on these as well. Overall, a very nice experience, and I will certainly be back.
2. We next trekked to Amareth. It is a smaller store with a less than friendly owner, but not rude or anything like that. I think he is just a quieter chap. This store was great. They have quite a few of Folio Society books, and they have a great selection, although they have fewer rare books. They do have the Folio Society Surinam Album as well as the 2-volume Oxford University Press of William Blake's Illustrations for Night Thoughts. They pretty much had everything I was looking for and was pretty complete. However, what really makes this place shine is its prices. The prices are all right on, so if you ever wanted to buy something and not worry about shopping around for best prices, this place is where you should go. Once again, a nice store with excellent prices, though not quite with the antiquarian selection I was looking for.
3. Bookman's Alley. What can I say, but this is now my absolute favorite bookshop in city. Huge antiquarian selection, strange knick-knacks everywhere, even a full cast iron printing press in the back. Jazz music in the background, comfortable, though somewhat tacky seats everywhere. Also a very good selection of ephemera prints. To my liking, they had a huge Limited Editions Club selection, huge antiquarian selection, and some gems such as the 2-volume Beardsley illustrated Morte d'Arthur (for $7K) and numerous other gems. The only thing that this store has against it is the pricing. Its like he sees a book and just throws out a number that he sees fit, and it is never on the low side. He is notorious for not having an online presence, and this is probably why he has such a pricing issue. I overheard him not being willing to give some well-to-do Russian couple a discount on a few expensive looking books, so I assume that he is rather strict with his prices. He clearly is like the Printer's Row Fine and Rare Books in that both seem perfectly happy not to sell anything. Oh well...I will be back for the atmosphere and the selection, but will certainly not be buying anything anytime soon.
Thanks to everyone here for pointing me towards these bookstores and getting me out of Chicago. How ironic that in the big city of Chicago, that a good portion of the best bookstores in the area aren't even in the city!
I agree with you about Chicago Rare Books pricing. One of the owners once remarked to me that they really made all of their money on big-ticket items, and I couldn't help thinking to myself that this was probably a function of a) their name, and b) the relatively high prices on the more pedestrian stock.
Women and Children First, 5233 N Clark St, feminist, socially aware, interesting author talks.
Book Cellar, 4736 N Lincoln, really don't know them other than they are "there."
On the antique side, Architectural Artifacts, 4325 N Ravenswood, roughly 2 acres of really interesting (stained glass, bars, fireplace mantels. Very high end generally but fascinating.